firm profile

East-End Pearl Street Mall, Boulder
Drexel Barrell began as Frank Drexel Surveying in Boulder in 1949. During the 1970’s, our offices were at 1425 Pearl Street, at what is now the east end of the Pearl Street Mall (1st & second floors in the taller building on the right side).

Drexel Barrell’s History

Frank R. Drexel, PLSDrexel, Barrell & Co.'s "Point of Commencement" occurred when Crawford, Colorado-born Frank R. Drexel, PLS (1925-2008) opened his Boulder, Colorado surveying practice in 1949. Frank was assigned to the Army Signal Corps in World War II, and after the war he applied his Army training and experience to the profession of land surveying. His aptitude, skills, and drive rapidly earned him the reputation as one of Colorado's most knowledgeable and experienced land surveyors.

Frank served as the Boulder County Surveyor for 20 years and as a result, assembled the most comprehensive collection of survey records in the County. Through him our records date back over 150 years and form the basis for much of the surveying in Boulder County.

Robert F. Barrell, P.E. Our "True Point of Beginning" was July 31, 1964, when Frank joined forces with his ex-University of Colorado roommate and brother-in-law Robert F. Barrell, P.E. (1921-2003) of Findlay Ohio and incorporated Drexel, Barrell & Co. The duo formed Drexel Barrell to provide quality civil engineering and surveying throughout Boulder County and across Colorado.

Bob served in the US Navy (radar and electronics) during WWII. After the war, he earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering (at CU Boulder) and a masters degree of business administration (University of Buffalo).

Landmark projects during the Drexel and Barrell era were surveying the NORAD tunnels beneath Cheyenne Mountain, runway and NORAD additions at Peterson AFB, and platting and engineering the 3,500-acre Cheyenne Mountain Ranch, all in Colorado Springs; the annexation, surveying, and engineering of the 434-acre, 3.7-million s.f., 4,500 employee Boulder IBM Plant site in 1965; and surveying and engineering the Pearl Street Mall in 1976.

In land-locked Colorado, both men developed a passion for long-distance ocean sailing (Bob was inspired at 15 by Jack London's "The Cruise of the Snark"). Frank and his wife sailed from San Diego through the Panama Canal to Key West Florida and back, a leisurely trip lasting two years. In 1979, Bob and a friend sailed a Parker Dawson 26 from San Diego to Fiji via the Marquesas and Tahiti, a trip of over 6,000 miles. The Fiji expedition garnered national press coverage for the sense of spirit and adventure. Drexel retired in 1979, and Barrell in 1986.

Richard G. Settergren, PLSRichard G. Dick Settergren, PLS joined the company in 1964 and advanced through the ranks to eventually become a co-owner and president of the firm. In addition to carrying on the excellence in surveying established by founder Drexel, Settergren was active in community service in the Chamber of Commerce and a YMCA board member. One of his most noteworthy projects was the survey and annexation plat of the 24,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch in Colorado Springs (the first of several times DBC has surveyed this property). This was one of the largest surveys in Colorado, and effectively doubled the size of the City. Dick retired in 1995 and lives in San Antonio.

John Common, P.E. In 1971, Bob Barrell hired a young engineer and surveyor named John Common, P.E., PLS, who thought he was merely making a "stop" on his way to California. "JC", as he was known, served as Chief Engineer and followed Barrell's footsteps in business management. With the retirement of Bob Barrell in 1986, Common became a co-owner with Settergren. Some of JC's notable projects included Interlocken Business Park in Broomfield, a 963-acre project adjacent to Rocky Mountain Regional Airport, Cheyenne Mountain Ranch in Colorado Springs, Coors Technology Center in Golden, the Steamboat Springs Base Village, Lake Catamount Ski Resort, and the Aspen and Snowmass Ski Companies (all were decades-long endeavors). John was passionate for competitive sports (he once played baseball with Pete Rose), and led the company's basketball and baseball leagues. He later developed that same passion for golf, and was the driving force behind an annual company-sponsored golf tournament widely received by clients and the community.

Brockman, Middleton, Wright, WeissWhen Settergren retired, Clifford R. Brockman, P.E., (1949-2007, back-left), Michael D. Middleton, P.E. (back-right), William K. Wright, PLS , and Barbara N. Weiss, P.E. became owners with Common. In 1999 Common retired and still lives in Colorado. Brockman, Middleton, Weiss, and Wright purchased Common's remaining shares, and continued as the third generation of employee-owners.

Weiss was a life-long Drexel Barrell employee who worked her way up the engineering ranks to become a Principal. She was the engineer of record on hundreds of projects in Boulder County and throughout Colorado. Milestone projects included Coors Tech Center, Blue Heron Estates and Atlas Valley in Lafayette, Stone Canyon in Lyons, and Prospect New Town in Longmont, the first and still one of the largest New Urbanism projects in Colorado.

Cliff was Drexel Barrell's hydraulics and water resources expert and introduced this technical expertise to the firm. Some of his signature projects included the Pike's Peak Highway Erosion Control and Sedimentation Study for the City of Colorado Springs (part of this project included the first GPS survey of the summit); Drainageway "A" for the City of Louisville (which removed large portions of downtown from the 100-year floodplain); rehabilitation of Horseshoe Reservoir in Walsenburg and Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County, the design of Harrison Avenue Levee Extension and floodplain modeling for Boulder Community Hospital-Foothills Campus, and water features in Aspen, Westminster, Cherry Hills, and Greeley.

Brockman retired in 2004 and Mark H. Hageman, LEED AP a veteran employee became a shareholder and was promoted to the position of Associate and later to Associate Principal. Barbara Weiss retired in 2006. In 2012 Hageman retired from our company after 37 years, at that time setting the record for longest-tenured employee (since surpassed by Principal Bill Wright, who started in 1977).

Frank Drexel and Dick Settergren attend DBC 2004 Open House

Founder Frank Drexel (front-left) and former owner Dick Settergren (front-right) attend DBC 2004 Open House with then owners Middleton, Brockman, Weiss, and Wright

Michael D. Middleton, P.E., Principal The third generation of employee ownership was co-owned by engineer Middleton (30 years at Drexel Barrell) and surveyor Wright (an impressive 46 years with our firm).

While in college, Middleton attended a 3-week Colorado Outward Bound School ski mountaineering course in Lake City and from that experience knew he was destined to live in Colorado. Nine months after graduation he did, first with the City of Broomfield (last as City Engineer) and then Operations Engineer at the Boulder County Public Works Department before founding Columbine Engineering Management Group, Inc. He and a partner operated Columbine for 10 years. The firm closed during a severe recession in the late 1980's and in 1990 Mike temporarily moved to Southern California for work. He returned and joined Drexel Barrell in 1993 when co-owners John Common and Dick Settergren offered an ownership opportunity. DBC accomplishments during his tenure included opening new offices in Greeley, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction, and Denver and strengthening Drexel Barrell’s public sector capabilities and focus.

William K. Wright, PLS, Principal Bill Wright, PLS joined Drexel Barrell in 1977 and holds the all-time company record for longest tenure. He started by drafting surveys and plats under the direction of Frank Drexel and Dick Settergren in the original 1425 Pearl Street office. They instilled the virtues of accuracy, excellence, hard work, and not taking shortcuts preparing surveys, legal descriptions and subdivision plats. Bill meticulously examines, proofs and checks every legal description, survey, and plat under his charge and they do not go out until they pass his strict muster.

Bill was a leader in the planning, funding, and construction of the 40th Baseline Monumentation in Boulder (Baseline at Broadway). This commemorates the 1859 US Government Survey of the 40th parallel of latitude (a prime reference for land surveys in Colorado and the Western U.S. and it is also the state line between Nebraska and Kansas).

One of Colorado's Most Experienced Consultants

Drexel Barrell has been continously serving our Colorado clients for 74 years. To our knowledge, this may set the record for longest tenure of any Colorado surveyor / civil engineer (at a minimum, it certainly puts us into the top two or three!). During this time, we have completed more than 25,000 projects for our clients across Colorado and neighboring states.

Because we are both surveyors and engineers, our company is able to provide complete services, from field to office to field. Our surveyors collect existing ground, infrastructure, and boundary information upon which our engineers prepare design plans, specifications, and construction cost estimates. Our surveyors stake the design improvements, ensuring a quality product. This continous feedback loop provides quality control checks and balances from multiple angles and perspectives.

29th Street Retail (former Crossroads Mall)

Drexel Barrell "Benchmarks"

1949 Frank R. Drexel, PLS opens for business in Boulder. Develops reputation for surveying excellence and serves as Boulder County Surveyor for two decades.
1960's Robert F. Barrell, P.E. joins and Drexel, Barrell & Co. incorporated (1964). Drexel Barrell surveys and provides civil engineering for the IBM Boulder Campus on the NW quadrant of SH 119 and Mineral Road.
1970's Opened Colorado Springs Office in 1973, designed 5,000-acre Cheyenne Mountain Ranch, surveyed alignments for construction of NORAD tunnels, Fort Carson construction and Peterson AFB expansion, and surveyed and civil-engineered the Pearl Street Mall, Steamboat Springs Base Village, Snowmass East Village, and Lake Catamount (the site near Steamboat Springs proposed for the 1974 Winter Olympics). Boulder County Public Works retains Drexel Barrell to redesign 3.5 mile McCaslin Blvd. from US 36 to SH 128 (this segment was part of the Red Zinger / Coors International Morgul Bismark bicycle racing course and included "the Wall").
1980's Interlocken Office Park annexation maps, surveying, platting, and design (20-year+ project), Broomfield. Bob Barrell retires 1/1/1982. Led by Dick Settergren, PLS, DBC surveys the 24,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch in Colorado Springs in 1984 (first of several times). Drexel Barrell continues surveys, civil, and construction engineering on Cheyenne Mountain Ranch including designing Cheyenne Mountain Blvd. in Colorado Springs. In South Boulder, we design the Table Mesa Shopping Center and King Soopers and the Tantra neighborhood. The Aspen Ski Corporation commissions Drexel Barrell to survey and design facilities in Aspen and Snowmass, a relationship that lasts for decades.
1990's Drexel Barrell is the surveyor and civil engineer for the Thornton Carpenter Recreation and Aquatics Center, Parker Recreation Center, Castle Pines Recreation Center, Castle Rock Recreation Center, and North and East Boulder Recreation Centers. Greeley office opens and within two years becomes largest civil / surveying firm in Greeley. Projects include Weld County Community Corrections and Public Works buildings, University of Northern Colorado, the Greeley Funplex, Sheep Draw Trail, Greeley's first roundabout at 67th Ave. / W. 29th St., floodproofing projects for Greeley No. 3 Ditch, and numerous single family, apartment, and commercial building projects. Our Colorado Springs office surveys the 8,500-acre Vandermuelen Ranch and the Maxwell Grant Line near Trinidad, including setting survey monuments on the summit and approaches of Fisher Peak (the highest point in the U.S. east of I-25). The Vandermuelen Ranch became the James M. John State Wildlife Area adjacent to what is now Fishers Peak State Park (2022).
2000's Drexel Barrell is commissioned by the Hemmeter family to design infrastructure for gaming casinos in Black Hawk. Work includes widening of SH 119, signal design, the Clear Creek Trail, retaining walls, floodplain modeling, bridge hydraulics, plunge pools along Clear Creek, and civil design for the Isle of Capri, Fitzgeralds, Lady Luck, and preliminary design of Jackpot Springs Casino (names have changed since then); Flatiron Crossing Mall, Broomfield; Boulder Community Hospital Foothills Campus; Harrison Avenue Levee; 29th Street Retail (replacing Crossroads Mall); The Peloton; Operated Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction and Denver Offices to serve our many clients. Steamboat Office surveyed and designed 2010 Steamboat Unbridled improvements to the Base Village and numerous other projects in the area. In Grand Junction, DBC the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District's Colorado River Intake, Lift Station, and 2,000-LF Force Main; provided construction surveying for the 7-mile Riverside Parkway and the 7-story St. Mary's Medical Center (largest medical center between Denver and Salt Lake City); designed the majority of building and infrastructure improvements at Colorado Mesa University including the first campus wide survey and plat since CMU was founded. DBC redesigns 3.3-miles of SH 93 (Marshall Dr.) from SH 93 to Superior to incorporate bicycle lanes for Boulder County and CDOT.
2010's Company strengthens our public sector offerings, undertaking roadway, intersection, trail, utilties, and bridge projects for agencies across the State. Colorado Springs Regional Manager / Principal Tim McConnell, P.E. leads the office for a 12-year and counting expansion, surveying and engineering private and public sector projects in Colorado Springs, Fountain, El Paso County, Pueblo, Trinidad and across Southern Colorado. Projects include Ventana, a 3,500-acre master planned community in Fountain; Falcon Marketplace; Adeptus Hospital; Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Parking Lot; Chapel Heights, Cheyenne Ridge, Indiana Ave, and numerous projects for Fort Carson, Peterson AFB, and the Air Force Academy (including the Air Force Academy Chapel reconstruction). The Boulder Office develops new public sector clients across Colorado. The office wins roadway, bridge, intersection, trail, traffic, floodplain, water resources, utility, and facility design projects along the Front Range, and in Colorado's Mountains and Plains communities.
2020's COVID-19 impacts people and businesses perhaps like nothing experienced since the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Employees and businesses adjust to working at home and later home/office hybrid arrangements. Drexel Barrell flourishes by continuing to provide excellent service and performance from our homes and offices. Middleton and Wright retired on August 18th, 2022. The fourth generation of employee ownership consists of:
  • Tim D. McConnell, PE
  • Mathew E Selders, PLS
  • Michelle Iblings, MCE, PE, CFM, PH
  • Cameron W. Knapp, PE, LEED AP
  • Garrett J. Lingreen, PE
  • Derek F. Schuler, PE, PTOE, ENV SP
  • Kate Varnum, MSE, PE
Kim Cooper, MBA, CPA, will continue providing controllership and administrative staff support services as Chief Financial Officer.